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Software developers are in demand in nearly every industry, as technology becomes more and more ingrained in every aspect of daily life. Anyone pursuing this career may find it attractive because, aside from paying well and having tremendous growth opportunities, it involves creative work that is constantly evolving and challenging.
The median salary for software developers is $120,730, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 26% growth in this profession over the next 10 years, which is about 371,000 jobs. Software developers can work in a wide range of industries, including marketing, biotechnology, gaming, within the nonprofit sector and many others. It is engaging work that frequently involves working on a dynamic team.
For these reasons, software developer moved up four spots from last year to top the U.S. News 100 Best Jobs Rankings. Read on to learn more about why software developers are in such high demand, and why this profession may a good choice for those entering the workforce or looking for a career change.
A Career With a Competitive Advantage
Not only does just about every industry need to integrate technology into their business practices, businesses also need to keep up to date in this fluid, dynamic field.
“Software is the competitive advantage of the 21st century for both employees and employers. Today, every organization in every industry is rapidly digitizing and leveraging technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” wrote Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of Stack Overflow, in an email. But companies need talented developers to make this happen.
Chandrasekar says the world faces a long-term deficit of technologists. By 2030, global consulting firm Korn Ferry estimates the U.S. may lose $162 billion worth of revenue annually due to a shortage of tech talent, and globally, that number rises to $8.5 trillion. So workers with tech talent are in demand.
Businesses also need to keep up to date in this field. “There are always new ways of doing things, new technologies coming down the road. So just keeping up with changes and trying to be competitive, that necessitates that you look for software engineers and developers for your work staff,” says Kevin Collins, associate director of the Career & Professional Development Center at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s very difficult to be competitive without making a concerted effort to identify and recruit those kinds of candidates.”
The supply and demand imbalance for technical skills as well as the high salaries associated with software developer jobs are drawing attention throughout the world. “Globally, educators and governments have also noticed the skyrocketing demand for technical skills; they’re starting to bake software development into school curriculums, in some cases starting before the age of 10,” says Chandrasekar.
Technology is becoming a part of a greater variety of jobs, which also feeds into the demand for software developers. “Clinical researchers, for example, may use Python for data analysis, and as machine learning and artificial intelligence are increasingly democratized, financial analysts, for example, may use AI to automate the invoicing process,” says Chandrasekar.
Also, most knowledge workers will eventually benefit from some familiarity with software development since it touches many aspects of daily life and work. Cars, phones, appliances and many services on the internet that are available on these devices Excellerate people’s lives – and they all rely on software. “Software development as a career is the best place for creative people to invent this future. The excitement of creating capability that changes the lives of people for the better makes a software career very attractive,” wrote Thomas Longstaff, chief technical officer for Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute in an email. The institute creates new capabilities for software development and software engineering.
An Expanding Field
The startup industry has grown over the last two decades, and software developers are needed to understand product ideas for apps or other platforms as well as the marketing of those products and the technology they require.
Growth in other industries like finance also offers opportunities for software developers. Quantitative analysis is becoming a big part of the finance industry. High-frequency trading firms interested in making trades at lightning speed depend on software developers to make the programs.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted a lot of people's daily lives online, and this sped things up for the field of software development. “In fact, the first three months of the pandemic pushed us forward four years in terms of the volume of cloud-focused questions asked and answered on Stack Overflow,” says Chandrasekar, explaining how programming is becoming increasingly embedded in business and daily life.
“In addition to the role of software in all technologies we interact with, the new software development approaches based on Agile and DevOps have made software developers see immediate impact to their work,” says Longstaff. Today, software developers can see the impact of their creations deployed in the same day or even the same hour they were created, which is another exciting way the field has grown. “This immediate feedback and impact provide a positive feeling of accomplishment in an almost continuous stream,” says Longstaff.
Industries That Need Software Developers
It’s hard to think of an industry that does not benefit from software development. The developer community is involved in everything from artificial intelligence to clinical drug development to renewable energy. Manufacturing, services, consumer products, business systems, farming, travel, space, science and many other industries all involve software development.
Chandrasekar notes that the COVID-19 pandemic provided a wake-up call for more traditional companies that hadn’t yet digitized. “When I talk to (chief information officers) and (chief technology officers), it’s clear they’ve allocated a meaningful amount of investment over the coming years toward tech modernization efforts. There is a lot to do; as an example, just 25% of traditional workloads have moved to the cloud.”
This means developers are needed in almost every industry. “There are countless examples of this: mobile banking and 'robo' investing in financial services; smart, (Internet of Things)-enabled factories in manufacturing; autonomous driving in automotive; and vaccine development in pharmaceuticals, to name a few,” says Chandrasekar.
Chandrasekar advises that software development skills will be in demand in many professions. “Beyond industries, it’s also true that most knowledge workers will, at some point, likely require software development skills, whether that’s for automating repetitive tasks, working with big data or something else we’re yet to imagine,” says Chandrasekar. “What’s clear is technical skills are ascendant. Every organization and industry needs to be cultivating a pipeline of software developers and technologists.”
Benefits and Challenges of a Career in Software Development
When a company decides to up its tech game, developers are at the heart of those efforts. Software developers understand trade-offs between programming languages, cloud platforms and security postures. “They’re constantly at the cutting edge; what developers do on Stack Overflow is a leading indicator of where tech transformation is going. We saw, for example, that cloud- and machine learning-focused questions have risen 50% year-over-year for the past 10 years, and today, these are two of the world’s most important technologies,” says Chandrasekar.
The ability to make a big impact on an organization is one draw for software developers. High salary and day-to-day flexibility are additional benefits. Plus, software developers are constantly learning. More than 70% of developers learn a new technology at least once a year, according to Stack Overflow’s 2022 Developer Survey. Roughly 70% of employed developers say they are happy at work.
Some challenges for software developers are comparative. Hours can be long or irregular, but some individuals may enjoy the challenge of going strong until the work is done. Software developers also sometimes interact with leadership who may not always understand their unique needs. A high-pressure work environment can result from developing code and making improvements on a daily basis. But for some, the outcome and compensation may be worth all the hard work.
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